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Displaying items by tag: Nature
Wednesday, 30 April 2014 14:59

Rivers of Fun

Spring is always a time of excitement and of release. As the snow melts and the birds return, I feel a sense of relief from the cooped-up restlessness of winter. The students I work with seem to have the same experience, though of course in a more exaggerated way. After a winter in often windowless classrooms, they are as wiggly physically as I am mentally.

The typical structure of our classes with the Neighborhood Environmental Education Project, our school program, is to do one or two short activities inside before heading out into the park.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014 14:48

The Arboretum’s First Spring

Every spring, Center staff members have a friendly competition of “firsts.” As the snow melts, folks vie to be the first person to see a red-wing blackbird, chipmunk or spring flower. But the most important “first” to me is found in the Milwaukee Rotary Centennial Arboretum. This is the first year we’ll begin to see the results of our hard work last fall.

All of Wisconsin’s ecosystems are represented in the Arboretum, from soil make-up to wildflowers to tree species. This amazing new asset for the city was built for everyone to enjoy. 

Wednesday, 30 April 2014 11:41

The Power of the Outdoors

We believe in the power of the outdoors. We believe that all work and no play makes us all a little dull and that the antidote for the monotony of routine is to go outside. We believe that paddling, biking, fishing, camping, hiking and/or playing outside are essential elements of a healthy lifestyle. We believe that nature is everywhere- even in the city- and that adventure can literally be found right in your backyard. We believe that fun doesn’t have to be expensive or accessible to only a few lucky people. We believe it so much that we can taste it as fresh as the spring air.  We can’t wait to get out of the office, home or car to stretch our legs. Are you with us? Then do we have a deal for you!

I awoke alone just before sunrise, happy for the warmth of my sleeping bag. The eastern horizon was aglow where ocean met sky. Purple, peach and pink all mixed up into one intense remarkable color. I rolled over and rested my chin in my hands to take in the beauty before my eyes. There was hardly a breath of wind on the shore of this small, isolated cove on Isla Espiritu Santo in the Sea of Cortez.

My mind was awake, open and clear.

I heard a soft sound ... not so much an interruption, but an intrinsic part of the moment.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014 12:17

The “Heartbeat” of a Community

It was another sunny day in the Menomonee Valley. Delma placed the stethoscope against a gnarly tree branch in Three Bridges Park. Her eyes grew wide and she shouted “I can hear it! The tree has a pulse!”

Several minutes, and several tree pulses later, Delma approached me and said, “My grandfather in Mexico used to place his ear to the ground and say he could hear the heartbeat of the earth. Is it true that the earth has a heartbeat? Now that I’ve heard the pulses of the trees I think he is right.” It was one of the most profound and beautiful statements I have ever heard, and it came from a seventh grader.

When I was first hired as an Environmental Educator seven years ago the Washington Park branch was just getting started. I had spent the last four years teaching in a variety of environmental education centers where my outdoor classroom had been a forest.

My new outdoor classroom was not a forest but a city park that had a lagoon with a very distinct “stinky end,” some nicely spaced trees and grass. All I could see were the challenges in not having decomposing logs to roll over, undergrowth to play camouflage or a gully of rocks; in short, all the things I was used to having when teaching a class.

Wednesday, 05 March 2014 14:16

Toddling Into Nature

Reflecting on all my experiences, I’ve really come to appreciate the pure joy and curiosity preschool-aged children readily exhibit in response to outdoor experiences. I can always count on pockets full of leaves, rocks, sticks and other treasures that kids bring to show me with exclamations of delight! One of my favorite things to do with preschoolers is to flip over these large, black pads that we have in Riverside Park to reveal the invertebrate life hidden beneath. The kids help me point out scurrying centipedes, hustling isopods and wiggling worms.

I came to the Center two and a half years ago as a summer camp intern. As my role has changed from environmental educator to volunteer coordinator and community health evaluation coordinator, I have found myself reflecting on a question that has repeatedly come up in the various roles I’ve held: What is environmentalism?

It didn’t take long in my role as an educator to notice that how I engaged with nature wasn’t universal. Activities I loved as a child, like catching bugs or sitting quietly in the woods or playing in snow, while appreciated by some, could be terrifying, disgusting or down right boring to some of my students.

Friday, 27 December 2013 12:22

New Year, New Land

I knew the call would come eventually, I was just hoping it would take a little longer to happen. When it did come, however, I was incredibly thankful that it left an opening and was not final.

“Ken, we’ve decided that we need to sell the property and have some interested buyers who have offered some very attractive numbers to us,” she said, “however, we’d love it if there was a way for the Center to have it. We cannot give it away but we might be able to give you time. How long do you think you would need to make a run for it?”

Friday, 15 November 2013 15:51

Fall Colors: How and Why?

I recently read Matt Flower’s awesome post entitled “The Beauty of Fall Trees” where readers got a great overview of the magic of fall colors.  After reading his post and looking at his stunning photos, I got excited to do a “piggy-back post” about the science behind autumn colors.  Read on to find out more about what changes trees undergo in the fall: why do leaves turn colors? How do they change color?  Why do individual trees change to certain colors while others change to a completely different color?

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